C&A, one of Europe's leading fashion groups, today joins the Cotton made in Africa initiative's Demand Alliance. In 2012 the company plans to take up 1,000 tonnes of sustainably produced African cotton for its textile products. This additional demand supports the initiative in improving the living conditions of some 240,000 smallholder farmers and their families in Benin, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Malawi and Ivory Coast.
The Cotton made in Africa initiative thus gains an important partner and further strengthens its international Demand Alliance. C&A is not only a very strong brand but also a company that places great importance on sustainable and responsible business. "We're happy to respond to our customers' demand for fashion produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way", says Phil Chamberlain, Head of Sustainable Business Development at C&A. "Cotton made in Africa offers us a great opportunity to use a high-value raw material with added social value in our textiles." With this sustainably produced cotton, C&A widens its already extensive engagement in the organic cotton sector. In 2012 it plans to take up 1,000 tonnes of African cotton; in 2013, 1,500 tonnes and in 2014, 2,000 tonnes of Cotton made in Africa are to be processed into C&A textiles.
"Rather than sending financial donations to Africa we're being proactive in helping create stable demand on the global market for sustainably produced African cotton", is how Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, explains the initiative's approach. "Gaining C&A as a Demand Alliance Partner is a great success for us on the European market." Cotton made in Africa provides participating smallholder farmers with cultivation methods that both conserve the environment and raise crop yields, while providing training and education for adults and children. Besides C&A the Otto Group, PUMA, Anvil and Tchibo are also Demand Alliance Partners.
The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) is glad to announce a pioneering new partnership in the United Kingdom: Abi Rushton, Founder and Director of
ethicalexpert limited, will be advising the Hamburg-based foundation on cooperations with UK retailers. The foundation's initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) supports an innovative approach to development cooperation by improving the living conditions of African smallholder farmers through trade. A global demand alliance purchases their sustainably produced cotton at market prices.
The partnership of the Aid by Trade Foundation and Abi Rushton and her ethical trade and sustainable supply chain consultancy ethicalexpert, aims at opening up new markets for the African cotton offered by Cotton made in Africa. "This partnership is a huge opportunity for the initiative to break into the British market, which is known to be a leader in the field of sustainable consumerism", says Stephan Engel, responsible for Sales at AbTF.
Abi Rushton comments on the agreement: "At ethicalexpert we're very excited about the partnership with Cotton made in Africa as the initiative also aims at securing profitable supply chains for brands and workers. We've been impressed with the reach and impact of CmiA's work on the ground in Africa and its potential commercial impact for brands." Rushton, who has extensive experience across the market, is optimistic with regard to the future development of the initiative in the UK's retail industry: "We believe our work with clients to develop profitable sustainability strategies compliments CmiA's work. Together we can provide sound commercial opportunities for brands and workers." The initiative's approach of making sustainable materials available at market prices, Rushton argues, could provide a solution for UK retail to help the ethical fashion niche go mainstream and give retailers a profitable means to drive the change.
Cotton made in Africa works in five African countries to help smallholder cotton farmers help themselves through trade. On the one hand the initiative supports cotton farmers on-site with training and community projects; on the other hand, CmiA continues to build a demand alliance of international textile companies that purchase sustainably produced cotton at market prices and process it further for the global market. The demand alliance currently includes over twenty international textile companies.
Michael Otto has been awarded the Walter Scheel Prize for his commitment to development cooperation. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development presented the Hamburg businessman with the award for founding the Aid by Trade Foundation and the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which seeks to improve the living conditions of African smallholders.
The Aid by Trade Foundation pursues an innovative development cooperation goal: instead of sending donations to Africa, its Cotton made in Africa initiative provides help for self-help through trade on the principle of "social business". It has created an alliance of international textile companies that purchase and process sustainably grown African cotton for the world market. The initiative improves the living conditions of around 240,000 African smallholders in this way. Michael Otto, who started up the Aid by Trade Foundation in 2005, is currently chairman of the Foundation's Board of Trustees.
The idea for setting up the Foundation and the initiative came at the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún in 2003. The negotiations there had stalled because of protests by African states against distortions in trade caused by farming subsidies. In order to rectify this injustice in global trade and to improve the income of cotton growers in Africa, Michael Otto created the Cotton made in Africa initiative and the Aid by Trade Foundation.
The prize was awarded for the first time this year on 26 May 2011 in Berlin in the presence of former president Walter Scheel, after whom it is named. It is given to individuals and organisations performing particular services to development in society. The other recipients apart from Michael Otto were Ulrich Wickert for the non-governmental organisation Plan International, the retired German women's footballer Nia Künzer, and the Ethiopian business consultant and writer Dr. Asfa-Wossen Asserate.
The Otto Group and the Aid by Trade Foundation have launched a project to promote Zambia's school infrastructure. With the cooperation of the Dunavant Zambia cotton company and the Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG, the German investment and development company), the project will ensure that around 7,000 girls and boys in the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative project region will soon have better access to education.
The goals of this cooperative project are to enable as many children as possible to attend school and to improve school infrastructure as a whole. "Education is the key to a better future. Thus, if we want to strive for sustainable development in Africa, we have to start with the education of children. This is why we support this Aid by Trade Foundation project", says Andreas Streubig, Head of Corporate Responsibility for the Otto Group. A variety of Otto Group companies are partners to the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which is dedicated to improving the living conditions of African smallholder farmers.
The project that the Otto Group supports with 150,000 € includes plans for building six new school buildings. This will give many children from isolated rural regions access to a school closer to their villages, so they no longer have to endure the often very long, tiring and dangerous walk to school. Smaller classes and well-equipped classrooms will ensure every pupil has a desk and offer a quieter learning environment. The curriculum will also include a very special subject: classes held in school gardens will teach children important aspects of growing cotton and vegetables sustainably. This integrates key knowledge about environmentally-friendly and efficient agricultural technologies directly into the children's regular class work.
In Zambia, children are officially required to attend school from forms 1 to 7. The country's extreme poverty, however, complicates a well-working school infrastructure as well as the maintenance and equipment of the buildings. Classes of up to 60 pupils are not unusual in Zambia. Also, access to clean water and electricity is the exception rather than the rule for many schools.
To improve living conditions for African smallholder farmers, the Cotton made in Africa initiative is focusing on social projects in Africa in addition to promoting sustainable cotton cultivation. These are funded and carried out in cooperation with local African partners, companies, partners and the public sector.
The Aid by Trade Foundation has presented the first study of the project regions involved in its Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. The results provide initial insight into the living conditions of the 240,000 African smallholder farmers taking part in the project. It analyses and compares the status quo of the five west and east African countries, laying the groundwork for all future success and development assessments of the CmiA project areas
From May 2010 to January 2011, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) headquartered in Chicago completed field studies in the five projects countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi and Zambia. NORC gathered data on indicators such as demographics, education, yield and income for the smallholder families that will serve as a basis for comparison in future. The Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) commissioned the study which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Demographics, yield, income and education -- key findings
The study produced interesting results in demographics, yield, income and education. It demonstrated that CmiA reaches 1.6 million people - including the family members of the 240,000 smallholder farmers. Average household size in Malawi is the smallest with 4.6 people and by far the largest in Burkina Faso with an average of 10.1 people.
In Benin and Côte d'Ivoire, yield from the cotton harvest is currently 1,000 kg/ha of raw cotton and around 880 kg/ha in Burkina Faso. Cotton made in Africa's goal is to increase yield through training, allowing the African smallholder farmers to improve their incomes and helping them to help themselves. Benin clearly demonstrates that training offered by the initiative is bearing fruit: CmiA farmers there already achieve around 39 percent higher income than those not participating in the initiative.
Still income per person is currently less than 1.25 dollars a day for 88.6 percent of all CmiA smallholder farmers. Household income in the West African countries is around 1,466 dollars a year, the median in Malawi and Zambia just 361 dollars annually. Around 12.5 percent of the families in Benin and Burkina Faso suffer from a 'hungry season', a time in which all food stores have been exhausted and the new harvest is not yet in. In Malawi and Zambia this affects up to 30 percent of all households.
CmiA views education as the foundation for sustainable development. While the percentage of 5- to 12-year-old children who go to school in Malawi is the highest at 77.5 percent, only 47 of those children actually graduate. In Burkina Faso 46 percent go to school and only 29% of these complete a school leaving certificate. These numbers clearly show that there is still a great deal to be done. They also highlight the importance of the social projects the initiative is carrying out in cooperation with public and private partnerships to improve school infrastructure in the rural project regions.
As a snapshot of the current situation, the study's results underscore the importance of sustainable and innovative concepts in development cooperation. The data gained will serve as a basis for more closely focussing the CmiA initiative's work on better addressing key core issues. It will also serve as a basis for the regular evaluation and documentation of the project's progress in future.
SUSTAINEO is the name of this strategic initiative which strives for a stronger involvement of global market dynamics in development approaches to enable smallholder farmers in coffee, cocoa and cotton to improve their income and living conditions.
On Tuesday, 19th of April 2011, an alliance of the renowned entrepreneurs Dr. Michael Otto, Dr. Christian Jacobs and Michael R. Neumann was officially announced in a press conference held in Hamburg. SUSTAINEO is the name of this strategic initiative which strives for a stronger involvement of global market dynamics in development approaches to enable smallholder farmers in coffee, cocoa and cotton to improve their income and living conditions. Furthermore, SUSTAINEO aims to establish a strategic dialogue with policy makers. An intensive exchange of experiences between the foundations Hanns R Neumann Stiftung, Jacobs Foundation and Aid by Trade Foundation is foreseen to continuously improve the quality of work and document its impact.
Population growth, surface erosion and other use of cultivated areas make the supply of agricultural products a major global challenge. At the same time, the production of coffee, cotton and cocoa is of outstanding economic and social importance to many developing countries. Approx. 250 million people are depending on the production of said commodities which are primarily grown in poor rural areas. A professionalization of the entrepreneurial activities of smallholder farmers is a great opportunity to increase the typically very low income achieved.
"The demand for sustainably obtained products is going to increase more and more. By pooling our strengths in form of an alliance, we want to achieve that especially smallholder farmers contribute to the required supply volumes and benefit from an increasing demand by means of more productivity and better access to markets", states Dr. Michael Otto.
"In the project work of our foundations, we encounter comparable social and economic framework conditions and challenges when it comes to implementation and achievement of our objectives. In order to be able to enhance efficient and sustainable development cooperation we want to place our projects at new quality levels", says Michael R. Neumann.
"It is substantial to provide access to education to the children of smallholder farmers and to allow the communities to recognize education as necessary prerequisite for economic advance. It is this approach that I want to anchor more firmly by establishing SUSTAINEO", states Dr. J. Christian Jacobs.
SUSTAINEO was warmly welcomed by the Minister of International Development Cooperation of Germany, Mr. Dirk Niebel.